Friday, April 17, 2015

Have a Good Night

As I flipped through the channels on the TV last night I saw that a few weren’t working—they all had “Try again later” error messages on the screen, and there was no trying again later. They didn’t work. I restarted the cable box and watched its mysterious, glacial countdown from behind the kitchen island: L7, L6. L5 for a long time. L4. Finally it turned on again. The same channels were out. I decided to forget about it and go to bed.

Tonight it was still fucked up. And thing is, it wasn’t even anything I wanted to watch. Just some high-number sports and syndication channels. Yet I decided to receive it as deep aggravation. An affront, almost. I knew this was beyond meaningless and vain. But there I was, at the end of another day, another night; the TV’s on the fritz and I’m about to lose my mind.

I called the cable people. As I navigated the automated branches—verify your account, what’s the nature of your call—I felt a strange, desperate anger well up inside of me. I somehow knew I’d explode with rage, eventually, when the rep inevitably asked me to reboot the box again, to stall for time or try to get me to give up. I began to imagine the things I’d say. I’d be cursing—of course—in a harsh and tremulous voice. All my frustration, my rage, my helplessness—it would all be manifested in senseless, anguished demands. Sara would race over, alarmed, asking me what was happening, telling me to calm down. I’m pretty sure I’d smash something. One of those rocks glasses that fit so nicely in the fist. I could see it all. Including later, after I hung up: I’d apologize and cry to my wife, tell her that I had just had a mental breakdown and I didn’t know why.

Finally a woman with a faint accent answered the phone, presumably in far-off Mumbai. She asked me to read the error message on the broken channels so I switched to one. But there was Jerry Orbach following down a lead, crystal clear and beautiful. I switched to another. It worked. And another. Everything was working. The woman graciously credited our account for two days of outage and asked me if there was anything else she could do for me. No thank you, I replied.

“Have I addressed all of your questions and concerns to your satisfaction, sir?” she asked.

“Yes you have. Thank you very much.”

“Well then thank you for calling and have a good night.”